After the festive period, it’s easy to slip into the January blues, and spring may seem a long way off. Over Christmas, we may have been rather inactive, eaten too much, including offshore, and spent too much money (excluding offshore).
However, there are ways to obtain a happier frame of mind and get our bodies back into shape.
Now is the time to get active. We all know that exercise helps release a variety of “feel-good” chemicals which provide a temporary mood boost. Getting into an exercise routine helps us to feel more in control of our wellbeing in that we are being proactive rather than feeling helpless and lounging on the couch.
If you are working offshore, you can make some small changes that could make you feel more energised. Regular climbing and descending steps may be beneficial to general fitness. This “on the job” exercise can be complemented by use of the onsite gym equipment, and you can mix cardiovascular workouts with weights.
At home, walking outdoors can be bracing and also helps increase our exposure to natural light. It can be harder to make the effort to be active, so it can be helpful to team up with someone so you can motivate each other.
Or why not join the social committee offshore and get involved with organising social events? Quizzes are always popular and you could sharpen up your mind by doing some research and devising questions. You could also use downtime to learn a new skill or a language in preparation for summer holidays.
Over the festive season, we may have received – and given – many gifts, but at what cost to ourselves? For many of us, this means overstretching our financial resources using credit facilities to find that perfect gift and meet our expectations of what we think other people need to feel happy.
There are emotional costs, too, such as worrying about the January credit-card bills, and the post-festive blues once the temporary buzz has returned to normality.
Research indicates that the acquisition of material possessions is not strongly linked to enduring happiness. While it can give us pleasure, the positive effect on mood is all too often temporary in nature.
This is not to say that we shouldn’t ever treat ourselves or others, but that putting all our eggs in such a “hedonistic basket” is precarious in terms of our ongoing happiness and life satisfaction.
In the current financial climate, what better time could there be for us to look at the things which may help develop genuine happiness without the costs attached to hedonistic methods?
Various ways of living have been linked to happiness: improving and developing friendships; developing meaning and purpose in life, and raising awareness of our own personal strengths and virtues and using them in our life. Take the signature strengths survey at www.authentichappiness.sas.upenn. edu/
What we eat also affects our physical and mental wellbeing, and Christmas, and all that rich food, can leave us feeling lethargic.
After the festive overindulgence, it’s often a challenge to return to eating healthily and regular activity. You may even feel worse before you feel better as your body tries to cleanse itself of the festive excesses.
Abermed’s dietitian, Toby Donnelly, advises that alcoholic, high caffeinated or sugary drinks and foods high in fat or sugar, when taken regularly, can leave you feeling tired but unable to sleep well, dehydrated, lethargic/sluggish and low in mood.
Eating healthily, keeping well hydrated and being active every day will help to improve your sleep quality, lift your mood and boost your energy levels.
Toby also advises a positive approach and including more healthy foods and drinks gradually each day. You should:
Work up to eating five fruit and vegetables daily.
Swap white bread, pasta or cereal for wholegrain varieties.
Eat more fish, particularly oily fish such as salmon, herring, mackerel and sardines.
Drink more water.
At any time of the year, it is important to keep a healthy balance between activities that “nourish” you and those that “drain” you. You will find both at work and at home.
Make a concerted effort to timetable in “nourishing” activities such as hobbies, interests and parts of your job that bring personal satisfaction into your week. This helps maintain a sense of accomplishment and control.
You might find you are unable to perform quite as well as you do during the summer months, which can cause distress in some people. It is helpful to be accepting of this change; find ways of working with it rather than fighting against it.
If possible, try to work in areas where you are exposed to natural light. Lower light levels in winter may affect mood levels by changing certain chemicals in the brain, such as serotonin.
This is where working in outdoor roles, such as certain jobs on the oil rigs, may actually be helpful in beating the winter blues as they may provide more exposure to what little daylight there is.
Finally, beware of the new-year detox or crash dieting – these will not benefit you long term and may actually do you harm. If you set health-related resolutions, be realistic and do it right, then you will be more likely to succeed and maintain those results.
Jamie Patterson is a full-time psychotherapist at Abermed, which specialises in providing medical and occupational-health services to the international oil&gas industry. For more information, see www.abermed.com